In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — the GOP scramble to increase donations, Asian American families struggle post-affirmative action, hairdressers provide therapy services in West Africa, and the pertinence of modern minstrelsy.
[AD BREAK] [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Kaya, De’Ara, and Myles talking about the news that you don’t know with regard to race, justice and equity. This is another episode where I learned so much that I didn’t know before we started. New interviews are coming next month. Here we go.
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Threads, TikTok, at @pharaohrapture.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson on Twitter at @HendersonKaya.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: This is controversial. For some of you, it’s Thanksgiving. For others, it’s Indigenous People’s Day. For others, you really don’t care because, you know, sometimes families are complicated and you rather not. Anyhow, we were on a break last week and now we’re back. Um. But I’m grateful to be back with the crew. Um. So let, let let’s get into it. Oh, some of us had very controversial holidays like Puff Sean Daddy Diddy Combs.
DeRay Mckesson: Also known as Brother Love.
Kaya Henderson: Brother Love.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay.
De’Ara Balenger: I forgot about that.
DeRay Mckesson: That what he’s going, that’s what he’s going by now.
De’Ara Balenger: Is he going, he’s going by now?
Myles E. Johnson: About to be Uncle Riker’s. [laughter] [?] playing around. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: Myles.
Kaya Henderson: Not just him.
De’Ara Balenger: So [?].
Kaya Henderson: Him and a whole lot of other people.
De’Ara Balenger: A lot of other people. And so what’s happening is under the New York New York Adult Survivors Act is that survivors of assault, sexual assault in particular, are able to bring cases um that they wouldn’t have been able to bring otherwise because they had been barred by time limits and statue of limitations. But Sean Combs. Um. Harvey Pierre, Axl Rose. Russell Brand. Jimmy Iovine. Cuba Gooding Jr. Why Jamie Foxx on this list. Jamie Foxx?
Kaya Henderson: Nothing is sacred, baby. Nothing.
De’Ara Balenger: Man, man, oh man. More than 2500 lawsuits have been filed under this law so far. So oh man, these lawyers and PR machines are going to be making all kinds of monies. Um. But we saw what happened with Cassie and Diddy. Cassie um pursued a lawsuit against him, and literally the next day they settled. We don’t know what they settled for, what the um what the particulars of that settlement was, but it must have been real good good, good, good, good. Because it took–
Kaya Henderson: I read somewhere that it was a nine–
De’Ara Balenger: –twenty four hours.
Kaya Henderson: –a nine figure settlement.
De’Ara Balenger: I don’t even know how many figures. What does that even mean?
Kaya Henderson: That’s–
De’Ara Balenger: Like mil–
Kaya Henderson: That’s like–
De’Ara Balenger: Tens of millions of dollars?
Kaya Henderson: Uh. That’s like $100 million.
De’Ara Balenger: Hundred of millions.
Kaya Henderson: It’s like $100 million dollars. Which is a lot more expensive than the 30 million that she was allegedly asking for before she filed the lawsuit. Whoops. Um. And two other women have come forward or two other cases, I think have come up against Puffy, one with Puffy and Aaron Hall. That was an interesting name that we haven’t seen since I don’t know when. But there’s one woman who accused Puffy and Aaron Hall of of sexual assault. Um. L.A. Reid got caught up in this thing um with from the woman who who accused Russell Simmons of of sexually assaulting her. And it’s a lot, Eric Adams. Y’alls mayor. Ah it’s a lot out there y’all.
DeRay Mckesson: And you know what was what’s wild about um Diddy outside of just the sheer intensity of the Cassie allegations was just how many people seemingly knew. Right. Like you look at the interviews that come around. So Diddy’s bodyguard posted on Instagram saying, you know, he said something like, I’m just speaking my truth. The whole bodyguard being like what she said was true. When Aaron Hall got accused, there’s an old Vlad TV interview where Aaron Hall talks about his the mother of his child, Gloria Velez, where he’s like, yeah yeah, I went up and I f-ed her, da da da da she was 16.
Kaya Henderson: Yikes.
DeRay Mckesson: I think she had his baby when I think she had the baby when she was 17. She posted like, finally, people are speaking out. Finally somebody else posted and I hadn’t even considered that somebody posted um again, Gloria Velez responded to it. But somebody was like, you know, what happened to all the kiddie clubs? Like I remember in Baltimore, there was like a teen club. There was like a kiddie club like and and Gloria was like, that was grooming. She was like the men who ran those places, they were grooming girls. Like, it looked like a cool public service for cities that kids can go and have fun. But he was she was like, we were groomed in those.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
DeRay Mckesson: They were grooming facilities. And this is all coming to light. This is like finally, you know, I thought that the Russell Simmons thing would lead to more and it did not. You know, if anything, people like double down on Russell. I it feels like and he fled the country but this actually feels like, you know people are being empowered to use the legal process to hold people accountable.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah to to your point, I really hope that this is the beginning of a real reckoning in hip hop and in specifically just Black entertainment, because I think that there’s also often this just like preservation of like these Black excellent icons, and we don’t want them to ever go down and we don’t ever want their their image to be flawed. And it’s just about time that we tell what’s really going on. I was watching old episodes, you know, everything has like a different point of view when, you know, once you hear um certain allegations. So I was watching old episodes of making the band both Danity Kane and the band and, you know, the notorious scenes, where Diddy tells them to go and get cheesecake and how they and how he talked to Danity Kane and Aubrey and all the all the um women. And it’s it’s actually really, really obvious looking back on it that there was if this is what you’re willing to do in front of camera and how you’re willing to talk to people in front of camera, what happens when the cameras are off, if this is what you’re willing to do? And I think there’s this kind of oh we get that Hollywood is smoke and mirrors and this is for show. And we kind of give that a little bit too much. But I think. We should take who people decide to portray themselves as publicly a little bit more serious. And it also makes I wonder what y’alls opinions. It also makes me wonder, do y’all think this whole like, Brother Love album rebrand, was that him knowing something was coming and he was trying to, he was he was trying to mitigate? Like, what was he doing? What do y’all think? What do y’all think?
Kaya Henderson: I mean, he he is the he is like the prime example of rebranding, right? He’s only rebranded himself 59 zillion times. Hence you don’t know what to call him these days. Um. But I, I absolutely think I mean, at least from the articles that I read about the Cassie situation, they’ve been in negotiations for some months. And it seems I also read that, you know, recently he gave masters back to lots of his artists. I read somewhere that that was all of this was sort of preemptive to soften his image as this stuff might come out. Um. It is I mean, it is wild. It was part of our Thanksgiving dinner conversation. And, um you know, it was a cross-generational conversation just about power and and sexual dynamics and what we allow people to do. Myles, as you said, in in the culture of celebrity. Um. But I I do think that there is, you know, not and not and like the conspiracies that are flying, right. So there are all kinds of other allegations that have nothing to do with sexual abuse that are now popping up. I think it’s going to be interesting. One question that we kept asking was, is like, will he be canceled? Will will will artists still want to work with him? Will male artists still want to work with him? Even if women don’t, um will he retain his place? Will he keep his money? What do you think is going to happen?
De’Ara Balenger: Well, I did hear that Macy’s said they will no longer carry Sean John.
Kaya Henderson: For all the people who were buying Sean John these days. [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: Let me tell you something, those, at Macy’s and like in certain places that was real, Sean Jean was still popping.
Kaya Henderson: Was. You said was you said was. [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: But but yeah, I do think and I feel like I’ve said this before probably multiple times on this podcast, that there does seem to be two different medias happening and um it’s really easy to see it when it comes to white people. So we see Roseanne and she gets canceled and then she kind of gets absorbed into this Fox conservative machine. And it’s to me obvious that that same thing is happening even in Black culture, where, sure, you may not get those mainstream opportunities, but there’s going to be legions of men who um agree with you, who martyr you, and you’ll be able to make money and make content with those men. So don’t and don’t think that we’re just going to be um escaping his influence is going to chat– it’s going to change. And then unfortunately, those men who don’t have that Black mainstream access will be absorbed into the conservative, conservative conservative uh machine as well. And, you know, I would it might feel like a far stretch, but I would not um I could see a future where Diddy is like endorsing a conservative candidate or doing other things or and other people accused of these things are endorsing conservative candidates and conservative ideas because that’s where their money is now um and that’s where their popularity is now so.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say the last thing I’ll say about Diddy and then I’ll go to Eric Adams very quickly while we’re still on this topic, is that remember that all of the women are filing civil cases because citizens can’t file criminal charges. And the specificity of Cassie’s complaint alone, there is something in there that if the prosecutor wanted to file anything, just one thing, they would have the ability to do that. And granted, you know, it’s so it’s so interesting that murder is one of the only charges across almost every state where there is no statute of limitations, but rape is not. In a lot of places there is a statute of limitations on rape. So if you don’t if the prosecutor doesn’t file within a certain number of years, um they can’t file charges. But I’ll be interested to see what happens in the criminal and then Kaya to your point about giving back the masters, remember that that was conditioned on them signing an NDA. So there were people who did not choose to get their masters back because they did not want to sign the NDA. And then the mayor of the largest city in the country, Eric Adams, was also filed. He was hit with a lawsuit um for sexual assault as well. And it was when he was working in the Transportation Department of the city of New York, De’Ara I don’t know if you saw this because you would appreciate this. Oh, everybody would, Kaya you’d appreciate it as a former government employee. Everybody’s been speculating who’s going to represent him because remember, he can’t use campaign finance funds for the whole Turkey thing. So he like because he’s so there’s like he has started a legal defense fund where people are donating to that. That’s a problem, an ethical problem. But now who’s going to defend him with this sexual assault case? Because he’s the mayor now, he is saying that the city of New York has to defend him because he was a city employee. Now, the problem is that she was a city employee, too. So everybody is like, well is the city of New York defending both of you all in this? And that is his legal position, is that and his the spokesman for the mayor literally is like the city of New York Department of Law is defending the mayor in this. And you’re like this man, drag him out of city hall, y’all.
Myles E. Johnson: That’s just.
DeRay Mckesson: Oh, and then. And then did you hear that Cuomo is thinking about running if Eric Adams gets taken off.
Myles E. Johnson: Oh, my goodness.
DeRay Mckesson: That Cuomo–
Kaya Henderson: Say what?
DeRay Mckesson: –is fie– Cuomo is field testing a poll right now where he’s considering because the way it works in New York is if the mayor is removed or he’s no longer the mayor, the public advocate becomes the mayor for 30 days, and then they do a special election. And Cuomo has said that he will run if if Adams is removed. You’re like can we just get a whole new crop of people like everybody can do, we can do better than this.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m like I’m like, is LeVar Burton [laugh] busy? I don’t I can’t. I can’t imagine who can take it. But please, can we just not have any more predatory people and educate me on my ignorance but Cuomo, he had some allegations, too, right?
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. That’s why he’s out. That’s why [?]–
Kaya Henderson: Yes. That’s why he’s no longer the governor.
Myles E. Johnson: So I’m like so I’m like yeah [laughter] that doesn’t fix that.
De’Ara Balenger: He’s like perfect timing. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: Right no. That doesn’t fix that. Like, go, go, everybody go to sleep and let’s get some people who um yeah, I don’t know. The Black woman who operates the Empire State Building. I just saw her. She seems like a good candidate. Somebody who is just in New York City, who knows what’s real and who don’t got no um ties and doesn’t have any struggles when it comes to power and sex.
De’Ara Balenger: So my news today is is out of the Post. It I have to say, I’ve just been looking for glimmers of hope wherever I can find them for this upcoming election, because I’m just in a real sad, sad spot about it. Um. And so, you know, the Democratic Party, hopefully we get it together, but we got a lot of work to do. So, I’m like, hey, maybe the GOP will just mess it up for themselves. And it looks like there may be some chances of that. So the Post reported that donations to the GOP have dropped significantly, and there’s a lot of worry across their party about their finances. So it looks like donors are not cutting as many large checks to the RNC as they have in recent years. Um. They the the RNC has disclosed that it had 9.1 million in cash on hand as of October 30th, um which is the lowest amount the RNC has had um since 2015, according to an FEC report. Um. It compared that that amount compares to about the 20 million nearly double they had at the same time during the 2016 election and 61,000,004 years ago when Trump was in the White House. So the RNC has 9.1 million in cash on hand. The DNC has 17.7 as of October 30th, which is almost twice as much. Um. And so a spokesperson, Oscar Brock, an RNC member, said it’s a revenue problem. They’re going through the same efforts as they always has to raise money, same donor meetings, retreats, digital advertising, direct mail. But the return has been much lower this year. Um. So I don’t know. I just brought this to the pod because I I’m just happy to see it. And in my mind, I think because we are a constant news cycle over here, um always watching the news, it always seems like the GOP is one step ahead of us in getting doing better with marketing, better with press, better with fundraising. And it looks to be at this particular moment that that is not so. Um. So, yeah, I’ll take it. I’ll take whatever I can get. You know, and it’s interesting to see maybe that there hasn’t been a lot of fanfare around the presidential candidates, um which if you haven’t been paying attention. It’s, you know, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis. Um. Vivek, um Ramaswamy and Tim no and Tim Scott. Tim Scott recently dropped out, I think a few weeks ago. We covered that. So interesting to see. We’ll continue to cover it, but it looks like it’s a little bit womp womp over on the GOP side, which I will take.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, what’s interesting about this is that it reminded me of how much the storytelling and what we what we consume in the media shapes our understanding of power because De’Ara this blew my mind. Like totally that the sheer amount of energy that they just continue to take up in the media landscape is actually pretty impressive given that the numbers are down. Because I hear so much about Trump still. I hear a lot about DeSantis. I am not tracking. I have never searched for Nikki Haley in my life. I know what’s going on when she says, the Vivek, didn’t even know he existed. But he shows up on my socials so much and they the GOP strategy is actually just so present that I literally like in my mind, they’re making record breaking numbers like they are not down. They are more powerful than they’ve ever been. So this blew my mind. I’m happy you brought it. But it was a it really pushed me to be like, oh, this storytelling is doing something to the way I think about who has what and how in a way that’s really screwy.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, that kind of is what’s going to happen when you court poor white people because these poor white people are poor. And [laugh] so you’re not going to get the funding. But like I think and again, I feel like I’ve said this before in the podcast, I’m really wondering and curious and curious about the new conservative movement and how it’s going to happen, because I just know it’s a matter of time, because I think the Trump-ism of everything is so extreme that I know that there’s like other people who are conservative who are saying like I can’t, we we’re not supporting this where we’re looking for something new. And I think that is the wave that I’d be most concerned about. Wouldn’t be like the people who are still supporting this like this, this clownery? It’s when somebody with a sound mind, when the when the when the new Reagan comes, you know, when somebody with a who who feels sound who feels like a actual conservative comes again and just like energizes everybody and who’s in the Conservative Party, that to me is like what I’m most scared about. But it seems right on track that people would be seeing specifically after a Trump presidency. Like it makes sense to me that people are seeing that this is not something to support and and we’re going to hold our money until somebody comes around that that um excites us.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah. And I think this is interesting to watch and DeRay you’re right. Unless you are following this, the narrative is very different. But um either sometime this fall or maybe late in the summer. Ron DeSantis’ largest donor pulled out. He had given him like $20 million dollars. Right. And people are really wary. I think the moderates in the GOP recognize that all of this extremism is not going to win. And so I think if they’re like if we going to lose then we’re going to keep our money in our pockets. Um. And so I do think it will be interesting to figure out, because none of the Republican candidates beyond Trump are actually mounting enough of a campaign to get anybody behind any one of them. So it’ll be interesting to watch them continue to tear each other up and to figure out where the money both is going to come from and who it’s going to go to. Um. But like you, De’Ara, I’m like, great. Tear each other apart. Let us all sit back and watch um because the moral arc of just the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice.
De’Ara Balenger: And and just to remind us that, like, running a presidential campaign costs about a billion dollars. And that money’s got to come from somewhere. So I think if they’re scrambling to to try to figure out how to raise that money right now, um it speaks volumes of what they’re going to have to do in the coming months. And all these polls that we’re seeing about, you know, an increase, whether it’s an increase in Latino voters or increase in and in in Black voters going to that side, you still have to have that money to get out the vote so the polls can say what they want. But you got to be able to get those people to to the polls so.
DeRay Mckesson: The other thing too De’Ara is that it pushed me to really think about like the in-kind support because baby the media coverage they’re getting is priceless. They are they might not be paying for it, but they are being covered.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think but that I think that’s the part and this is what what I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last weeks is like and especially, you know, with with with the way the administration has handled um Gaza and Israel and just, you know, just where we are politically, socially, in terms of our humanity and how that’s going to impact the election. And and and and if, you know, if the GOP wins because of so many reasons. The media does better and liberal media does better. Organizers, nonprofit organizations that are justice movement organizations, they will get more money. So there is there is really an analysis to be done around who is who is really who is really? You know who really has something at stake when it comes to this upcoming election if the conservatives win? And oftentimes, in my mind, the people that are the loudest against the administration, are the loudest saying we’re going to use our vote as a as a protest. Had the least to lose.
Myles E. Johnson: I have a little question for my smart friends. So do you think [laugh] because you know, as 2024 gets closer you know, I get I get I get more fearful. So do you think that because of the things that are happening, let’s say I’m just using I mean, not just it’s a huge deal, but like the Palestine Israel thing and how that’s influencing people who usually are like left leaning. And now we’re like seeing that and like now we’re seeing um this when it comes to both campaign dollars. But just your average conservative being out of, you know, out of just not liking where the um GOP is going. Do you think that we are, you think next year’s elections going to be like really close? Like like I know nobody can know but just prec- like, I guess predictions you think it’s going to be really close, considering everything?
DeRay Mckesson: I just think it’s too early. I think that I think that none of us had anticipated Israel Gaza to happen, right? That like, the world could substantively change in between now and the actual election cycle next year. And I think when I’ve read the most recent thing is will be the thing. I think the storytelling around Trump is so old. Like it’s a it’s a played out. I mean, he’s wild, but the storytelling to people in their living rooms hasn’t changed. Like, they don’t experience it. Like I looked up and yesterday, I don’t know if you saw. Trump said that he’s going to get rid of Obamacare. There are a ton of people whose lives would be fundamentally different if that happened. Black and Brown, they would be in a different world if the only health care they could get was through their employer.
Kaya Henderson: White people too.
DeRay Mckesson: I mean.
Kaya Henderson: White people too.
DeRay Mckesson: Yes, they will be down bad. But like there’s a part of Obamacare that people don’t understand that like the idea that you can go to exchange is a new that is new. That’s like my lifetime. That’s like my adulthood that happened. Do you know what I mean?
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, I agree, DeRay. I think it’s way too early to tell. There’s also all of this Trump lawsuit stuff that will play out over the coming months, like there are too many things that can swing this thing in one direction or the other. But I think if the election was happening today, it would be very close.
De’Ara Balenger: I also just want us to think about this a little bit more locally in terms of who has what roles at the White House and who is on our National Security Council. I think part of this is like we think, you know, it’s Biden in there all on his own making all the decisions. And, you know, the buck does stop with him. But I think we really need to push this administration to be like all those white dudes can’t be sitting around the table making decisions when they are so far from the people. Like, if you went to Yale four times, chances are we not going to see eye to eye on a whole lot of things. So I think that’s what we need to start doing. It’s like, who is up in there? Like, let’s take the top off of that and start looking in there and start pressing the administration to have more diversity, more perspective, more people that actually have had life experiences that reflect who we all are and where we all have come from. So I’ll leave it that because that’s just what I’ve been thinking a lot about, is that it’s actually not that big of a problem if we get to solving, you know, just getting, getting really getting into the nitty gritty of what can we fix?
DeRay Mckesson: I think you’re right. I’ll tell you, I was in um I was in Atlanta and I got my haircut in Atlanta. And I, of course, was talking to the barber about Cop City. The police, the $90 million dollar 84 acre police training facility. And his push is [?]. Mind you I’ve talked about this a lot. I’ve heard about it a lot. But like what he said, he was literally like, but I thought y’all wanted training? And I was like, I mean, yeah, but not the and he was like, did they release a training curriculum yet? And I was like, no. He was like, oh, that don’t make sense like that I’m I’m making all these arguments. And he was like, did they release a new plan for the training or just the building? He was like, well, that don’t make sense and it was like, it is so, you know, like we can spend so much time with people who study and study these issues and da da da da da and that we sometimes miss the actual thing that is moving people.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
Myles E. Johnson: So you all and I know that I’m probably talking to people who are well versed in this topic I’m going to bring up, but it have come to my attention this begs repeat to be repeated and further explored and rehashed because we seem to forget. We are talking about minstrelsy. Um. This came by, came by my imaginary desk, not literally a.k.a. my iPhone, but it came by my imaginary desk because um I saw this kind of boom in content from YouTubers, um social media uh influencers um who kind of get their notoriety from critiquing culture, talking about minstrelsy and I and and and connecting certain things that we’re seeing on TikTok that are going viral, that are comedic um videos that are actually regurgitating minstrelsy. And I was thinking because of the DeRay’s last enlightening critique on Whoopi Goldberg’s history. That maybe we’re in a spot in history where people don’t necessarily know where entertainment comes from. Like entertainment is not an alien ship that landed in America and said, hey you all, we know you’ve been going through slavery and uh and and genocides and all this other stuff so we’re going to plant this entertainment mothership on you all so you can be free. No, it has a legacy from chattel slavery, it has a legacy from the genocide, from those genocides. And it is a, it is a performance art that helped perpetuate those things. That’s what our entertainment’s founded on. So I actually brought two um articles that and to me intertwined. The first one is from History.com because we got to know our history. Thomas Dartmouth Rice, an an actor born in New York is considered the father of minstrelsy. After reportedly traveling to the South and observing slaves, Rice developed a Black stage character called Jim Crow in 1830 with quick dance moves and exaggerated African American vernacular and buffoonish behavior. Rice founded a new genre of racialized song and dance, Blackface minstrel shows, which became central to American entertainment in the north and south. White performed hold on in the North and the South. Okay. White performers in Blackface play characters that perpetuated a range of negative stereotypes about African-Americans, including being lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, criminal or cowardly. Several characters in minstrel shows became archetypes, as described in the University of Florida’s digital exhibit History of Minstrels from Jump Jim Crow to the Jazz Singer. Some of the most famous ones were Rice’s Jim Crow, a rural dancing fool in tattered clothing. The mammy, an overweight and loud mother figure. And zip coon, a flamboyant dressed man who used sophisticated words incorrectly. Most of the minstrel show actors were working class Irish men from the Northeast who performed in Blackface to distance themselves from their own lower socio political and economic status in the United States says Leonard. So also we have to remember that this was something that was adopted by other poor white people to separate themselves in in the culture and put themselves above Black people when class and money couldn’t do it. So they used entertainment and culture to create that separation. Um. They did it to authenticate their whiteness, he says. It was the same as saying we can become the other and mock the other in our superior superiority by dehumanizing the other. This, to me was so essential because we are in an era where there are some women rappers who are dancing and twerking next to chicken. There are some people who are on TikTok who are calling themselves the dancing Gorilla, um and it makes me think maybe we don’t know where we come from and what and what stereotypes we fought hard to not perpetuate. And if we are going to absorb ourselves into those stereotypes, are we thinking critically enough that we’re subverting them and we’re saying something inside of them and we’re Trojan Horsing these stereotypes to say something more radical? Or are we just sticking to the script that was handed to us in 1830? So we’re going to fast forward to the Refinery29 article where it describes a series of TikTok users who, one I’m trying not to name their names because I think these are youngish kids and and grown people who want class mobility and who find making people laugh is giving them class mobility. So I’m trying not to name their names, but I’m just going to describe the actions, right? So one person is a big Black man who goes places and calls himself the dancing gorilla, and just starts dancing and smiling in front of people of all races, but oftentimes it is around the white people that it gets most of the um the most viral hits because of the the contrast of this big Black man dancing and smiling against these um, you know, unsuspecting dining white people. The other person is somebody who eats food, specifically chicken [laugh] and acts um overzealous and excited about eating this chicken. And this, too, gets a lot of um gets a lot of attention. And again, I wanted to take it out of just TikTok. Those were the TikTok um social media examples. But I’m going to take it a step further and describe, Oh, if you are a Black woman and you are using your sexuality to sell chicken, that is a form of minstrelsy, modern day minstrelsy. If you are a Black man and you’re using your um power influence in order to sell liquor, that is a form of minstrelsy that is us sticking to those scripts and. I wanted to bring this to the podcast because I wonder where this disconnect happens. Is it because we’re so desperate for money and for fame that we bypass and we just stick to what’s worked? Sticks to whats works? Are we ignorant about what works and why it works? Are we uh do we not know that there is a um embedded um love in lust for dehumanizing ourselves and an anti-intellectualism that can um that can bring profit? Are we ignorant of that, and that’s why we’re willing to perpetuate it? Um. Or do we see it, do we know it? And that’s a devil that we’re willing to dance with in order to get our personal finances, [?] our personal fame. Um. And of course, that’s scary to think about uh so my hope is that people are just ignorant to it. Anywho wanted to bring that to the podcast, wanted to have this little short conversation around minstrelsy and maybe even looking at the things that we’re consuming and maybe further contextualizing as minstrelsy. Because I know that sometimes, you know, I’m big on calling things jive turkeys. It’s insane [laugh] it’s insane. You, you, you a, you a, you a I don’t know if it’s a curse word, but y’all bleep it out but like, saying you’re a coon or something like that. I’m big on it because my mom was born in 1960 and all my family are like jive turkeys, ex-Black Panthers. And that’s just how they speak. And I’m always making sure that I’m not just raining on a parade or taking up the fun in some stuff. But once I see people acting a fool over chicken or twerking to sell liquor and and and and McDonald’s and Popeye’s meals. I wonder did we miss did we miss something? Did did are we not understanding our own history in entertainment? Do we not understand the history of entertainment and how that history is is a is a a living organism that will morph, that will that will exploit you and that we’ll find a new way to exploit you in the same old way. You know? There’s a there’s a lot different between certain people that you see in media and Sarah Baartman, but there’s a lot the same. It’s it’s still a sexual driven freak show. But now we have different music and different lyrics, but it’s still the same thing. I’m going to put a button in it with Sexyy Red. This is what really pushe me. And I’m saying her name. But I, the video of her inside the jail with men around her who were in orange jumpsuits and her saying as a pregnant woman half clothed, saying free my baby daddy, free him while other inmates were around her dancing. That makes me feel like we’re losing recipes, chapters to books, television shows. LeVar Burton, please. We need you in here. We need you. We need somebody, Bell Hooks’ ghost, we need your hauntings. Like, there’s things that are being missed. [laughing] If we’re to the point in 2023 where somebody is willing to be in the middle of a prison dancing for for pretend inmates as they are pregnant half naked. Um. And willing to put that out to the public. I think we’ve we’ve skipped some stuff.
DeRay Mckesson: So I don’t know if you saw Kai Cenat, the streamer who again, I missed I only know him because he appears on the blogs, but he is popular amongst the kids. He did that um he did that like 24 hour live thing for a couple of days or like a week maybe where he was in a prison. So all these famous people visited him in the prison. And it was obviously not a real prison, but they were “incarcerated” in air quotes and they filmed the 24 hours. So NLE, like one of the big rappers, I can’t even remember. NLE, or NBA YoungBoy, one of them, um Druski came by like all these people came by and visited them and participated in the jail experience as it was live streamed. And that really was like, okay, this is something’s broken. But Myles the first thing that I thought of and I’ll keep this short, is that, you know, you talk about the history of it and what is what I am reminded is that not only was it culturally relevant, but it was commercially profitable. So minstrelsy was not just like a form of passive entertainment, it was a form of income. And I think that what we have not explored in public as well is how, despite the critique, it is still currency, it is still profitable. So that guy who is like dancing and calls himself the black gorilla, it’s like you are participating in the economic benefits of minstrelsy, if we can even call it that. But that that people, for whatever reason, have chosen to eschew the cultural tragedy of it and participate in the economic system of it, which is, you know, insert capitalism here like this is advanced capitalism seminar, senior seminar.
Kaya Henderson: Y’all I feel like such a old lady because I ain’t got much else to say. [laughter] I mean, and and, you know, we we want to take the extremes, right? The man who calls himself a gorilla and is dancing and and the, you know, guy who’s eating chicken in front of everybody. But it’s also us pulling our hair and throwing crap on each other on these reality shows and fighting. And all of this is minstrelsy, all of these things that reinforce the worst stereotypes about us. And I agree with DeRay. I think people are like, whatever, I’m making the cash um and I’m a celebrity, an influencer. And that is, you know, that’s what you get when everything that I’m you know, when the currency is social media, that’s what you get when a currency is celebrity. We don’t we don’t actually reward people appropriately for doing things that uplift the culture and that, you know, contribute to society because we so busy, you know making it rain on the people who make us look as terrible as possible. And that is a lesson that the young people, they’re like look, minstrelsy all you want, but she has more money than you do. And, you know, I don’t even know how we respond to young people at this point.
De’Ara Balenger: I think it’s so interesting. I remember um, Myles, this takes me back to one of my Black studies classes at college um because we did a whole thing around um culture. Black cultural images on TV. But back then it was like, you know, Black folks had a bunch of shows on Fox. There was Martin, there was Living Single, There was um In Living Color there and I remember like those. Those are examples of shows that I wish were still around to this day. But I remember having a critique back then around how some of that could be akin to minstrelsy.
Myles E. Johnson: Absolutely.
De’Ara Balenger: Um. And but but I think the through line through it was it it was on a white network. So I feel like any time Blackness interacts with white stream main culture or pop culture. That’s when that’s when it gets icky. Right. So whether that’s our music, whether that’s our dance, whether any, any Black expression. I feel like as soon as it touches those waters of capitalism of you know, mainstream production companies, TV studios, etc., etc.. That’s when it all gets murky. So and I think for social media, it’s like this is a platform I mean Black people are so brilliant at, you know, making something their own. But at the end of the day, the platform is still a white capitalist platform. So how much flexibility is there with, you know, a true cultural expression? So it’s just very, very, very interesting.
DeRay Mckesson: You know what this make me think of too is as I saw um remember Esther Rolle, who played Florida Evans. There was a did y’all see the interview that went around, it was I saw it this weekend where she talks about how she fought really hard to have a husband on the show?
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Myles E. Johnson: Mmmmmmm.
DeRay Mckesson: And that and what she says is that, she’s like, I’m the birth of the Black father in entertainment because she says she was going to pull out of the show if she did not have a fath– like, if there was not a husband for her and a Black father and that she was dismayed and like she has in other places had talked about she was dismayed about the um popularity of the J.J. character and that um the guy who played Mr. Evans was also dismayed. And he, because of him being frustrated by the popularity of the minstrelsy of the J.J. character, he was actually let go. You know, she had she stayed on for a while because she was I mean, it was hard to do that show without her. But I had never even thought about what it was like to that he was the first Black father that is like, you know, the first mainstream big Black father on shows. And Kaya it goes to your point about, yes, do we have drama in our community? Absolutely, right. Like, nobody is drama free everybody got a little drama. But what happens when there is an intentional effort to exclude representations of community that are the things that birthed us? Like Black people loved us. You know what I mean? Like Black people loved on us without many resources and did it really well. Like we had a lot of fun and joy and like that is actually what you don’t see. But Lord knows you see movies about white people walking down the street and getting into a boat, and that’s two hours worth of the film. You’re like, is that the whole movie? They just walked outside? [?]
Myles E. Johnson: Wait is that your, is that your synopsis of the Titanic? [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: I was going to say. All of them. Uh I can I can think about I watched this horror movie that was literally like and she woke up. You’re like, that’s the you’re like, get me out of here. These are, white people get to have mundane movies about their lives um and about the range of life.
De’Ara Balenger: But it’s compromise because I think that’s the other thing. And I think, you know, and I don’t want to just put it on white people. Obviously, lots of blame goes there. But folks like Diddy, folks like, you know, folks that are now have clout, money, success and access and still create conditions where Black folks have to compromise to make money.
Myles E. Johnson: I–
De’Ara Balenger: Like it’s just I think. Myles, that’s the other piece of it, right? It’s like when our when our people sign up to compromise and when our people sign up to offer to offer us up.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m so glad you said that because that and what you and DeRay were just talking about is what was in my mind where as I think that what disturbed me so much is we were so often able to say, this network is doing it. So in our imaginations, you get a Black girl and you take her and these white executives craft her into this oversexualized stereotype. So it’s almost like, well, what could she do? What’s kind of disturbing is now you have these people who have all the access to do what they want, and they’re not just turning up and being this is still whatever, but like they’re not just turning up and being like Erykah Badu or [?] like whatever. They’re they’re they’re just adopting what was happening by their own by their own um uh authority, the creative authority. Nobody pushed them to do that or made them do that. They picked up the phone and said, this is what works. And me calling myself a dancing gorilla and me doing this works and I’m willing to perpetuate this. And Mc and and Popeye’s didn’t make me do this. I’m doing it so I can get Popeye’s
Kaya Henderson: It’s it’s–.
Myles E. Johnson: As a yes.
Kaya Henderson: It is absolutely fascinating. I’m reading Sheila Johnson’s biography right now Through the Fire, which also traces the the rise of Black Entertainment Television. And she goes on, I mean, and we all know the critiques of how BET started out to be a unique venue for programming for African-American culture and very quickly became a [?] you know, misogynistic, blah, blah behemoth. And she talks a lot about the dynamics in their marriage where she wanted to do new shows and she wanted to do things that were culturally uplifting and that Bob Johnson prides himself on being a businessman. And for him, it’s just about the bottom line. The bottom line was videos of naked girls and, you know, whatever, because that’s what made money. And so back around to this economic imperative, I mean, America has taught us that rugged individualism, capitalism is what we should pursue. And in fact, our community teaches us something very different. And, you know, it is a fight every day in our schools, in our community institutions, in our families to help our young people understand that that does not serve us well. Y’all got me feeling old out here in these streets. Can I bring y’all some news from from West Africa, please? [laughter] Because sometimes you’ve got to get off of these shores in order to find a little inspiration.
Myles E. Johnson: Fly us away. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
Kaya Henderson: Lord, today my news is coming from Togo in West Africa. A tiny little sliver of a country um where I found an article about um their approach to therapy, which, as you know, in most Black communities is underutilized and not not usually accepted. Um. But they have come up with a novel way to deal with the therapy crisis in West Africa by training hairdressers. So 150 hairdressers in West and Central Africa have received mental health training to support the general population in the whole country of Togo there are only five psychiatrists, like five for a whole country. Um. And there are lots of mental health issues. In fact, Africa, according to the World Health Organization, has the highest suicide rate in the world and some of the lowest public expenditures on mental health. Why are people in Africa having such mental health crises? Well, there are violent conflicts in Sudan and Somalia. We talk we’re talking a lot about what’s happening in the Middle East right now, um but not talking about what’s happening in Africa, where people in Sudan and Somalia and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Ethiopia and in the Sahel region are all experienced experiencing conflict right now. There’s rising drug use in large cities. There’s widespread youth unemployment. There’s displacement from the extreme effects of climate change, and there’s soaring inflation. All hell is breaking loose on the continent y’all and people have mental health issues. And so a woman who runs the Blue Mind Foundation, um who actually was the recipient of significant therapy after her husband was killed, realized that women, um especially uh the African women, needed some support mentally. Um. There’s a quote in the article that said, “people just need attention in this world.” And so they chose hairdressers because that’s where the women are. Um. And in spite of how poor folks might be, the cultural values around beauty still stand. And so women go to hairdressers and the hairdressers have been trained. They do a three day training. They learn to ask open ended questions. They teach people how to not gossip and not give bad advice. We could use a little bit of that around here. Um. We they help people um understand how to look for non-verbal signs of distress. And um and I brought this to the I brought and and and there are examples in the article um about ladies, both the hairdressers and the clients who whose lives are changed precipitously from what is a really simple idea. I brought this to the pod because um I think it is something that we can learn from. And we we’ve seen initiatives where books are in barber shops or, you know, we’re utilizing hairdressers and and salons to get the word out about really important things to our communities. But it just reminded me that, you know, sometimes the solutions are not really complicated. Um. Sometimes the solutions are really simple. Um. It reminded me that you don’t always need a whole bunch of PhDs and trained people to do things that the resources and the solutions are usually already in our communities. If we just leverage them differently and deploy them differently. Um. And I was, um you know, on on there’s a a um a page that I follow on Instagram called Black Liturgies that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. But uh this past week there were a couple of Bell Hooks quotes in the Black Liturgies post, and one that really stuck out for me um reads, we have to be aware, we have to beware of the extent to which liberal individualism has actually been an assault on community when the genuine staff of life is our interdependency, is our capacity to feel both with and for ourselves and other people. It just reminded me that, you know, our liberation, our healing, our joy, our salvation is tied up with one another, with our family members, which many of us spent time with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s healing. With our hairdressers and our barbers. We are healed. Um. And this is this is community, right? This is what America tries to make us run away from. And so um in this holiday season, I want us to run towards run towards the people that we love and the people who love us. I want us to talk to the hairdressers and the barbers. I want us to get healed together. That’s my news.
Myles E. Johnson: Ooo Kaya. This this. Okay. It’s given Kaya Henderson Winfrey. That really [laughter] warmed, that really warmed me.
DeRay Mckesson: You’re hilarious.
Myles E. Johnson: Because what it make what it also makes me think about and this might be a little sloppy, but I feel like we’re in a safe space. Just us and you know, thousands of people. But [laugh] but um I feel like in a safe space that I have been wondering because this self-care, mental health conversation that’s been happening, I was been wondering has it actually broken out of the cl– the the the class distinctions in America. So meaning if Black who who’s talking about self-care? Who’s talking about mental health? Who are they talking about it to and who has access to those things? And are we doing enough as um economically privileged Black people in America, are we doing enough to make sure that people who don’t have access to that um and don’t and don’t have uh the resources to that, are we making sure that we’re being that bridge or are we just kind of continuously talking to ourselves about ourselves um with the same people who don’t necessarily have those same economic um problems? And then what this article did for me too was say the other project is there are other people globally, Black people who need this care too, because what is the mental state of somebody who is who’s going through what’s happening in Congo, you know, and sure, you know, us being you know. I’m just this has not been said by anyone on this panel, but thinking through things that I’ve seen at these mental health seminars and panels and stuff. But being the only Black person in the room and do and all these other kind of like individualistic things and capitalist driven things that we that that hinder our mental health. Sure, those things are real, but the project is for us to figure that out, be a better community member and then us look, look out as a global community member and figure out who can use these services even more than we do and who can use these tools even more than we did when this article, to me really helped maintain um my mind globally because it’s very easy for me to just be not just in America, but just in Brooklyn, you know, where the project is for it to get out of Brooklyn, to get out of New York, to get out of my class distinction and and hopefully for it to go global. And I just appreciate you for bringing this um challenge to me this week.
DeRay Mckesson: What I loved about it Kaya is that it it pushed me to like, just say to myself and to everybody that anybody can organize, that the conditions for organizing are always present when there is an imbalance or injustice or a lack of resources. And that so often the way we talk about organizing is like, well, they went to 15, they are certified and blah blah. And you’re like, Nope, organizers organize. That’s the bar. And this is an example of somebody who saw a problem, realized that there were not resour– like people filled in the gaps, like they organized and they did it and they served a community. And that has been happening in our communities time and time again. And one of the things that dominant culture sort of did is, is that it convinces people that the only way to have a skill is that it’s like accredited by a thing. And you’re like, no these people did it, and if they had waited for a quote, “therapist,” they’d be really screwed in a context where they have been denied access structurally. Right. Like, this is not like they didn’t care. They it was it it three licensed therapists is not because people didn’t care about therapy. That’s something else going on. Right. So that was a push. And I like this. Thank you Kaya again I hadn’t even seen this article on anything.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think as especially Kaya to your point as we get into the holiday season, which can be a hard time for folks. Um. Just the importance of you know, I think it’s important for us also to put on ourselves to to reach out to others. And I I read something the other day around, you know how hard it is for people that are struggling. Well, people that are struggling with mental illness or are struggling with thoughts of suicide, how they, you know, are able to put on this kind of performance of being okay. Right. And so I think it’s so important for us to just to reach out to one another and folks within our communities and just to check in with folks and make sure that folks are okay. So thank you for bringing this Kaya.
DeRay Mckesson: My news is about affirmative action, and it is in the L.A. Times. The headline is Post Affirmative Action, Asian-American families are more stressed than ever about college admissions. Now we try to tell everybody that anti-Blackness really hurts a lot of people. But people didn’t listen to us. People thought we were being dramatic. And what the article does is that the article chronicles some Asian-American families trying to figure out how to game the college admissions system and cycle, hiring consultants for $3,000, $5,000. Having people write the essays or buys them on the resumes. Mind you these kids are 14, 15 and 16. I didn’t go to school where any Black student who had the resources to hire a private anything for the college process. I I mean, shout out to Bowdoin and I love Bowdoin. If Bowdoin had not come and done a talk at my high school as I was skipping class. I would not be at Bowdoin because nobody put it on my radar. I just happened to be in the guidance office when they walked in and I say all that to say that what is fascinating about this is that while there were so many like, while it was, you know, plaintiffs who were Asian-American sort of fighting about this idea that affirmative action was somehow discriminatory against them, and the lawsuit that ended affirmative action in college admissions, they and this article are still trying to game the they’re like, well, my last name will make it really clear that I’m an immigrant as as that should be a proxy for how they’re considered. They are writing about a parent struggling as an immigrant. They’re writing about, you know, all these things that are central to their identity as nonwhite people in this country while they simultaneously fought for the end of affirmative action because they thought that it would help them.
Kaya Henderson: Whew child.
DeRay Mckesson: Now come on. The last thing I’ll say is that, you know, it is so hard when other races don’t realize that the quest to be close to whiteness will always end with you just not being white. That is the game. So whiteness will let you get close, will hug you, will invite you in for dinner, but you are not white that and there is no amount of trying that will make you white. It just is not, that is a losing game and this is another example of people trying to play the game and you’re like Matthew Taylor from Podunk, Nebraska will be fine with his four point O, like there is a way that this system benefits whiteness and was built to do it and affirmative action was a response to that. So the idea that nonwhite people helped to dismantle it is just so wild, but not something that we did not anticipate hurting them as well.
Myles E. Johnson: Told y’all. Told y’all, what what’s so interesting to me and again, very sloppy thoughts because um I think we’re talking about like a sloppy reality is there is something too being some there’s something to white supremacy and anti-Blackness and being a part of a race that isn’t necessarily doesn’t have any association with um Blackness. And when you don’t examine the privilege that that gives you, you really end up making, to put it lightly, silly decisions. Um. To DeRay’s point there’s nothing that you’re going to be able to do to make you come before these white people. And it’s wild to me that it had to be it had to come here. And I guess I’m kind of returning to a similar question that I had before is what recipes and chapters are we missing that you don’t remember or you don’t consider um what America did to the Japanese folks and the whole the whole reason why certain people in what the whole reason why Asian peoples were experiencing discrimination, like what what is happening, that that’s not being considered anymore when we’re making these when we’re making these decisions. What what, what what about today’s history or today’s current events make you think that if you don’t have these legal and political protections, that they will not subjugate you to the back, the back of the line? Like, I don’t know how a group of people got there. And I know it’s obviously not all Asian-Americans at all, um but I just don’t I don’t I don’t get the through line. I don’t I don’t get the the journey, the thought journey that people got on to think, you know, what’s the answer? Stop affirmative action. That’s what’s going to help uh Asian folks advance. And this article is also sad, you know, because I don’t this might be controversial to say, but I don’t think that um Asian-Americans or any people any immigrant should have to uh weaponize and intellectualize their histories and their identities to get into school and education. I think it should just be about being a superior student or being somebody who loves education. I don’t think you should have to um turn your story into a Netflix drama in order to get access. And it just the whole situation just makes me it just makes me sad. Is that yeah.
Kaya Henderson: Um. This made me just think like, is this worth it? Like, is it worth it on so many fronts? As I read the stories of these poor young people who many of whom are just brilliant right? They’re hardworking, they are scoring 1520s on their SATS and taking 15 AP classes and still are all stressed out because they’re not going to get into Harvard and Yale. I went to school with kids like that and I was like, I don’t want to hang out with those people [laugh] like at all. Um. They were not healthy. They were not happy. And so, you know, one question that I had was, is it worth it for your kids? And there was one one parent who who said, you know, I just want my kid to be happy and successful. I don’t want to stress him out. And that is not the general, you know, perception in this article. But I just wonder, at a time where we’re paying a lot more attention to kids mental health and happiness whether or not this ultimately backfires on these families. And I also wonder whether it’s worth it to go to a school where there’s just going to be a whole bunch of rich Asian kids, not even poor Asian kids, like just rich Asian kids, the one who can the ones who can, you know, pay for the admissions counselor and whatever, whatever. How are y’all going to act in the world when all you’ve been around is yourselves and each other, where you actually have missed the part of college where you learn from different people and explore new things because there ain’t no different people at these schools. So I wonder if that’s worth it, especially when you paying eighty or $90,000 a year. And then the thing that was fascinating to me was, you know, I think there’s a big question right now as to whether college is worth, you know, whether the juice is worth the squeeze, whether, you know, the kinds of kids, the kinds of jobs that young people are getting when they come out of college compared to the debt that you take on to go into college is worth it. And I thought one of the most interesting things in this article was this sentence here. Yen pointed out that going to a top college is no guarantee for career success. With Asian-Americans overrepresented at many campuses yet underrepresented in leadership positions in government and other workplaces. Oh well. So you think you’re doing all of this stuff to make sure that your kids get to be successful. And that’s not what the data shows. And so I feel um one I feel badly for these kids, um I think, you know, I understand their parents motivation and whatnot. But we have you know, we have um bastardized the whole college thing. I feel I do feel like you DeRay that it is wildly ironic that people of color took down affirmative action and now they worried about not getting into school. Um. Maybe yeah you should have thought about that. And um yeah, I actually think that this is going to get much worse. It’s not just about the admissions piece. I think we’re going to see all kinds of things happening on college campuses that were not the case before or maybe that were the case before, way back in the day before campuses were integrated. Um. And I think we’ll be worse off for it.
De’Ara Balenger: I think too Kaya just pointing out sentences in this article that are [laugh] really reflect just where this college process is. So Wan Jun Kim, director of the college consulting firm Boston Education, was talking about this student, Esther. Her academics were stellar 4.3 GPA, 1520 S.A.T. and nine AP courses. But in her personal statement, she wrote about her mother’s fight with breast cancer, and she was admitted into the admitted to the University of Pennsylvania. That was her trump card. I don’t know. This is all just [laughing] I just feel like we cannot get away from this culture of toxicity and exploitation and capitalism. And it’s like–
Myles E. Johnson: It’s dystopian.
De’Ara Balenger: –even. It’s it’s wild. And this is like a child who’s learning to use probably the most devastating experience as leverage to get into college. We’ve got bigger problems. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]